NAPFA Spring 2015 Conference Review

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NAPFA’s Spring conference was the second conference for financial planners that I’ve been to (after last year’s FPA BE in Seattle).

Some general thoughts:

  • I found the people to be friendlier (maybe they were just more dressed down?) than FPA BE
  • The vast majority of the sessions were extremely broad/not highly technical
  • The event was run extremely smoothly (kudos to the Grand Hyatt Staff – sorry about that guac I dropped)
  • Lots of sessions hosted by people pimping out their fund/product

I missed both of Kitces’ talks, however, he’s blogged about them before:

  • Longevity Annuities
    • This one is really interesting, I don’t think many people have wrapped their heads around the mortality credits idea
  • Reverse Mortgages (not sure if this is the latest he’s written)
    • I think the put option value of the reverse mortgage is really interesting, especially if there is a zero-cost mortgage – unfortunately houses around here are way too expensive for that option to have much value

A few (extremely simplified and occasionally poorly represented) reviews of selected sessions (in no particular order):

  • Keynote from Daymond John
    • To his credit, his speech was very entertaining and he made an effort to connect with the crowd
    • That said, his speech, which included a DJ (to play music and sound effects for him to speak over) and a slideshow that contained about a million pictures of himself and his famous friends, was pretty much the antithesis of NAPFA
    • I’m pretty sure everyone was confused by the choice of keynote speaker
  • Putting a Value on Your Value: Quantifying Vanguard Advisor’s Alpha – James Rowley
    • Pretty good session that focused for the most part on how people with advisors do vs. people without advisors
      • There is some interesting self-selection bias here
    • His best point was that advisors that do a good job will typically be undervalued because there is no available parallel universe where the client can see where she’d have ended up without an advisor
      • My interpretation of his point, I don’t think he mentioned parallel universes
    • To Vanguard’s credit, this presentation was all about the info and not about their offerings
  • Women in NextGen – Panel Discussion
    • Four young (27-35?) women on a panel, two who work as solo practitioners and two who are parts of larger firms
    • Was very interesting to hear about their career paths / what their businesses (especially the SPs) are like
    • Discussion only went toward their gender when the moderator realllllly steered it toward there, when asked about it, I’m pretty sure most/all of them said their age was a bigger problem for ‘older generation’ clients than their gender
  • Building Family Legacies Through Philanthropy – Sally Alspaugh
    • Most of the talk was about the statistic that dynastic wealth dissipates some really high % of the time within 3 generations
    • She believes that the way to prevent the dissipation is by having shared family values that transcend money, especially re: philanthropy
    • All of the things she said about ‘typical’ spendthrift inheritors/2nd/3rd generations is pretty much the opposite of what I’ve seen in my experience
  • The Gen-Savvy Financial Advisor – Cam Marston
    • Great speech, clearly an excellent speaker who has given this one more than a couple of times
    • Boomers+ want to hear your background/where you came from/letters after your name
    • Millennials/Gen Xers want to hear what you’re about/what you’re going to do for them
    • He seemed pretty spot on with most of the Gen X and older stuff – maybe it’s my bias or the fact that he was running out of time, but his piece about millennials seemed underdeveloped/not as accurate
  • Behavioral Finance and Investor Decision Making – Gregory La Blanc
    • Good speaker
    • Speech was essentially a run-through of a bunch of cognitive biases with the occasional reminder that it isn’t just clients, but also (especially) advisors that can suffer from these
  • Learning from History
    • This one was an unabashed plug for a fund
  • Chips, Jets, Myths, and Miles Davis – Neil Patel
    • Engaging throughout
    • Mostly boiled down to the need to adapt and have tight OODA loops
  • Tech Demo – Advizr
    • Slick financial plan creation software
      • Separate portal for advisor and client
    • Said their goal was “delivering more financial plans”
    • From a technical planning/customization point of view, the software should probably still be in beta
      • e.g., no way to (even manually, much less automatically) include file/suspend social security benefits, no AMT tax calculations
    • May be a good fit for planners working with very young clientele that don’t need ultra-accurate projections because their time horizons are long enough that there is more noise than signal anyway

I’d probably be interested in attending another NAPFA event in a couple of years, but I’d love to see some more technical planning sessions and fewer sessions that are nothing more than infomercials.

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